|Hayley Holt: "Naomi Klein? Don't you mean Calvin Klein?"|
THE POLITICIANS HAVE ALL HEADED OFF on the kind of extended summer break that most workers can only dream of. But before they all made a beeline for their holiday homes (no housing crisis here, folks), the political parties did a little limbering up in preparation for the big game of parliamentary musical chairs next year.
The teams have been adjusted. Some new politicians have been slotted into the starting teams, some politicians have been demoted to the bench, and some haven't made the playing squad . They will carry the team's kit and water bottles, occasionally popping up in Parliament to ask a patsy question of one of their playing colleagues.
Everyone's been shuffling the pack in the House of Cards - except for the parties that have few cards to shuffle. Although I did hear a rumour - or maybe it was fake news - that Peter Dunne was under severe pressure from Peter Dunne to replace himself.
There has been a meteoritic rise for Labour's Michael Woods. Although beaten into second place by the Did Not Vote Party which grabbed 68 percent of the total vote, Woods still somehow won the Mt Roskill by election with 21 percent of the vote. Now, just a few weeks later, despite the fact that only 11,000 or so people could be bothered voting for him, he's Labour's spokesperson on Ethnic Communities, Consumer Affairs and Revenue. Incredible.
Over in the Green Party, Steffan Browning and Catherine Delahunty have announced their retirement. If co leader James Shaw has his way, they will be replaced in parliament by two market friendly MP's - Chloe Swarbrick and Hayley Holt.
While neither Browning and Delahunty could not be described as ecosocialists, they at least never really wholeheartedly subscribed to the notion of an environmentally friendly capitalism - unlike their two co-leaders. The Green Party is a lesser party without them. But if Holt manages to get elected - thanks to a favourable ranking on the party list - the Green Party will be able to utilise the media skills she has demonstrated on such important television shows as UK Dancing with the Stars and The Crowd Goes Wild. So that's all good, eh?
But, in the end, despite all the huffin' and puffin' from The Commentariat about the various personnel changes, nothing much has changed at all. We've still stuck with a cosy cabal of parliamentary parties that all subscribe to the primacy of the market. As we head toward a general election next year , we are again presented with no alternative to the neoliberal consensus.
The second plank of Bryce Edwards and John Moore's Manifesto for Change is to shake up the parliamentary cartel. Edwards writes:
Parliament is not as diverse as people assume. Since the first MMP election 20 years ago, not a single new party has broken into Parliament. From New Zealand First to the Maori Party every group was either already in Parliament, or created by a party-hopping MP.
MMP hasn't delivered any outsiders. Instead, it's a cosy cartel of politicians who create and maintain rules that keep new parties from being able to grow and make it into Parliament. MMP was supposed to shake up the party system, but has failed.
It is notable that in 2015 polling by UMR research showed only 68 per cent of the public were "generally satisfied" with the political party options and 25 per cent "would like to see a new party or some new parties emerge before the next election.
The immediate solution is to reform the MMP system and that means the abolition of the five percent threshold which, as Edwards comments, "undemocratically prevents new parties challenging incumbents. This would also solve the electoral seat farce in which parties are exempted from the threshold, and various deals are done to game the system."
Nearly a million people no longer participate in the three yearly farce of parliamentary musical chairs. So its time to kick the chairs away and start again.